This is probably both the most predictable and the most difficult review I’ve ever had to write during my time at The Koalition. It’s predictable because most of the stuff I’m going to write could have been written 9 months ago and it would have still held true. The reason why this review is difficult is because there is so much I want to say about the game but by giving too much away I’d taint the overall experience for all who reads. There’s a reason why Naughty Dog has been very reluctant to show single player footage of the game and that’s because Drake’s Deception features an array of jaw-dropping moments which you should experience for yourself as opposed to being shown or told about beforehand. If you clicked on this review with the intention of actually reading it then I hope to do a good job telling you what you already know but if you just came to check out my score then continue to scroll to the bottom of the page.
Once again protagonist Nathan Drake is on a mission to unravel an age-old secret that has stumped fellow explorers for centuries. After figuring out that his renowned ancestor Sir Francis Drake hid a secret from the world during a voyage 400 years ago, Nate and his mentor Victor “Sully” Sullivan embark on a journey to discover what exactly Sir Francis was hiding. As per usual things don’t go according to plan and the wise-cracking fortune hunter quickly finds himself in the thick of a much more sinister plot. Those who have played the previous Uncharted games will be pleased to hear that Uncharted 3’s story is a lot more grounded in reality. Sure no man could engage in a fire fight against 1,000’s of hired thugs are emerge victorious but if Drake died during the opening scene it wouldn’t make for a very good game would it! Zombies, Yetis and rejects from James Cameron’s Avatar are nowhere to be seen. The villain this time around isn’t a stereotypical Russian guys with scars, its middle-aged British woman Katherine Marlowe who proves to be the series most believable antagonist yet.
As expected the delightful Elena Fisher and feisty Chloe Frazer return to assist Drake on his quest, as does newcomer Charlie Cutter who formerly worked for Marlowe. The interaction between characters is one of the finest things about Uncharted 3. Once again the writers and voice actors have done a remarkable job making both the friendship and the rivalries feel genuine. Every single cutscene in the game is a joy to behold thanks to Drake’s witty and charismatic nature. During the 15 hour campaign I must have laughed out loud at least a dozen times and the amusing in-game banter often made me chuckle too. Nolan North (the actor who plays Nathan Drake) is naturally a captivating speaker and his persona and influence really shines through his digital counterpart.
One of the few complaints that Uncharted 2 received was due to Sully’s limited appearance. Good ol’ Vic took a back seat during Drake’s second adventure to make room for the Drake/Elena/Chloe love triangle but Sully fans will be pleased to hear that Drake’s closest friend has a prominent role in Uncharted 3. Not only does Naughty Dog shows the origins of the duo’s unbreakable friendship, they also demonstrate just how far Drake is willing to go for his buddy in one of the most beautifully crafted and emotionally charged scenes I’ve ever witnessed in a videogame.
The game opens with a bar room brawl which gives players a chance to familiarize themselves with the games new hand-to-hand combat system. Drake is now a lot more capable with his hands and during gunfights you’ll often find yourself alternating between bullets and blows. Naughty Dog has also introduced a few on-foot chase sequences which almost put LA Noire to shame. Brief stealth sections are still present but they are no longer mandatory, allowing you to throw caution to the wind and go in all guns blazing. Drake’s Deception is also a lot more puzzle heavy than it’s predecessors but this time around the puzzles are less elaborate and more logical. They aren’t spaced out as eloquently as they were in Uncharted 2 but the reasoning for that makes sense from a story prospective.
When you’re not shooting or puzzle solving, chances are you’ll be climbing and boy does Nate have a lot of things to climb! Whether you’re scaling an ancient ruin or a escaping through the roof of a burning Chateau, climbing feels fantastic and serves as the catalyst for some truly enthralling moments. Uncharted 3 is jam-packed with an array of extraordinary sequences that make the infamous train level from Among Thieves seem like an uneventful stroll in the park with Elena. Most game developers would feel privileged to provide one “holy shit!” moment but here Naughty Dog has given us plenty. You’ve probably already seen a few of these sequences during trailers and gameplay demos but nothing compares to experiencing them for yourself.
With all these multiplatform games that appear on the Playstation 3 it’s easy to forget just capable Sony’s console is but with Uncharted 3, Naughty Dog has proved that the PS3 still has several years of viability ahead of it. Graphically the game is stunning, both character models are environments are incredibly detailed and the game runs smoothly even when it feels like the world is crumbling beneath your feet. Uncharted 3 also has stereoscopic 3D support and I can honestly say that it is the best looking 3D game currently available on consoles. This is one of the few titles that actually benefit from being in 3D so if you have a capable TV you should definitely check it out.
As amazing as Uncharted 3 is, like everything in life it isn’t perfect. I felt that one or two of the gunfights overstayed their welcome and the story contained a few too many moments where the bad guy held a gun to Nate’s head without pulling the trigger. The biggest problem I have with the game is the fact that you still have to press a button to pick up ammo! During heated gun battles you’ll frequently find yourself accidently replacing your current weapon while scouring for ammo. Since there’s never a reason why you wouldn’t want to pick up ammo I really wish all ammo pick ups were done automatically. Regardless of these issues I still think Uncharted 3 is a masterpiece. The jaw-dropping cinematic gameplay works in tandem with the gorgeous visuals, phenomenal voice acting and emotionally engaging story, all of which cumulates to form a priceless artefact that can be yours for only $60. Is it the best game of the year? I certainly think so but does such an arbitrary term matter in the end? Absolutely not! Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is not the reason why I play games, it’s the reason why I love games. Now if you’ll excuse me I have more treasure pieces to hunt….
Normally I’d end the review here but surprise surprise…. Uncharted 3 also has a fully featured multiplayer component. I bet you didn’t know that (!). Seriously though the competitive multiplayer modes aren’t my cup of tea but I still appreciate the amount of work that Naughty Dog has put in to making it. This isn’t your typical tacked-on multiplayer experience, it features a wide variety of modes, several expansive maps, customizable characters and weapon loadouts, a rewarding perks system, a host of community features and there are plans for at least 7 additional maps packs within the games life cycle. If you’d prefer an online mode that is more akin to the single player game then I’d encourage you to check out the brilliant co-operative modes which can also be played locally via split screen. There are two different co-op modes for you to choose from, Co-Op Arena and Co-Op Adventure. Arena features nine maps and has both Survival (Horde) and Gold Rush (Capture the Flag) gameplay variants while Adventure challenges you and a friend or two to complete story-based missions loosely based on the single player campaign. I don’t think I’ll be participating in many death matches now that I’m done with the review but I’m confident that the Co-Op modes will keep me playing for many months.
This review was based on a retail copy of the game for the PlayStation 3 provided by Sony.